Frisky the Mongoose

Aditya P. Singh
8133/5 Stadium Road, Opposite YPS
Patiala-147001 Punjab (India)

Our house is located on Stadium Road, across YPS Patiala (an old princely palace and stadium with wide green lawns) now converted into a public school. The house is adjacent to Govt. College for Girls whose entrance is written out on a signboard in large Punjabi script. Stadium Road used to be a quiet residential area which leads to the Army Cantonment just beyond our house; the distance between the cantonment and our house being a mere 200 yards.

Unknown to the rest of the world our town has its own pastime for teenagers and the unmarried- 'gherees'. The word is Punjabi for 'chase'. Like olden days Maharajahs and Princes on shikar, boys want to run their 'Bullets' (a version of the World War II Royal Enfield motorcycle) without its silencers and rev it up- so that its sounds like a choked up Harley, and chase girls on scooters. The game ends with boys getting a look at the girl and honking if they appreciate the beauty of the subject. Sometimes girls too take gherees. The people and animals that live on Stadium Road are tired of the encroachment of gherees and business on their private lives. Natural habitat and greenery is at a loss.

Our house has a small covered area. Since land is inexpensive in Punjab just like Texas, it has a large garden, an organic vegetable garden, a gazebo and a fish pond. All these initiatives have borne fruit because of my parents' untiring efforts. Of late a displaced family of Great Indian Hornbills- a rather large bird that feeds on fruity trees like fig and papaya growing in our back garden has become a frequent visitor here. These, I reason, are displaced from the National Institute of Sports and its woods or the 'Chottee Bir'-'small woods and the deer park adjoining them' towards the south of Stadium Road. These woods are all within 3 miles of our house.

Now we come to the question bothering me- what brings Frisky here? We own a second house just 20 yards away from the one we live in. These we have leased out and a manager runs a small paying guest house facility for girls. We share the same food that is prepared by this facility and the uneaten food goes to the compost pit, right next to the organic vegetable patch. I reason that Frisky has his afternoon meals at the compost pit. Maybe he also enjoys the squashes growing in the vicinity.

I, first, saw Frisky yesterday. I was reading the four newspapers that we subscribe to while sitting under the gazebo. Today my mother sat down with me over a cup of tea, under the gazebo and also saw Frisky playing around the garden. The Mynahs, Seven Brothers and others birds are his 'dushmans' ('enemies') as they chirp a lot and reveal his hiding place wherever he goes. We both agree that Frisky is a 'baccha' ('a child'). Perhaps his parents live across the road in YPS, under the silver oaks that grow right across our house.

When we were christening 'Frisky' I suggested the name 'Moongi'. 'Moongi kee dal ka halwa' is my favorite sweet- made by roasting the yellow brown lentils in milk, sugar and clarified butter and letting them simmer for hours. Since 'Moongi' is the name of the lentil and goes with his color and complexion I thought it was an apt name. But since they are naming everything with a history and English, Indian, my mother thought we will name Moongi as Frisky.

I told our housekeeper about Frisky and how she had rather keep the door closed when brooming the floor. She is a nice though illiterate woman of the villages. She said seeing Frisky is a bad omen, since it is like the 'Baba'. The villagers are a brave people and lead a hardy life. But one look at the neck high thick sugarcane fields and the water soaked paddy fields and one is bound to know that the fields are home to the 'King Cobra'. The villagers call the Cobra- Baba; it is a mark of respect not to utter the name of their natural enemy.

I asked my mother whether there could be snakes around if Frisky was here. We have read in our books as children and heard in folklore while growing up of the legendary fights between the mongoose and the snake. Yes, the mongoose always triumphs. So mother said it was a good omen that Frisky was there. Anyway, his face is very humane. Whiskers, nose and eyes, all in perfect shape. Why Frisky could be a Hollywood Star.

Now I have a theory which has almost firmed into belief, although it might sound ridiculous to you the reader at the first. It is like this- every human being has an animal which he or she looks like. The regal among us- those with white beards and long combed hair- look like lions and lionesses. A teacher who once taught me maths and avoided all my queries, was very weasel like. Some people are stubborn like the Bactrian camel. I think that I must be the overfed calf who sits and feeds by the village temple. The sermons, debates and the 'shlokas' ('hymns' chanted in favor of the deity) just make it as pure as its surroundings. For Frisky the mongoose I have yet to find a human counterpart- but it must be a playful child, playing with its toys. Innocence personified.


  Published on 21/10/2011

  Source: E-mail 21/10/2011

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